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Brian Wilson suffers from 'neurocognitive disorder,' conservatorship petition says

The pop music luminary is “unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health, food, clothing or shelter,” according to the filing.
Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds: The Final Performances
Brian Wilson performing in 2017.Daniel Knighton / Getty Images file

Brian Wilson, the co-founder of era-defining rock group the Beach Boys, suffers from a “major neurocognitive disorder (such as dementia)” and should be placed under a conservatorship, the 81-year-old artist’s attorneys said in a court filing this week.

Wilson is “unable to properly provide for his own personal needs for physical health, food, clothing or shelter,” according to the filing. In a post on Instagram, Wilson’s family said it made the decision after the death on Jan. 30 of his wife nearly 30 years, Melinda Ledbetter Wilson, and following “careful consideration and consultation” with his seven children, doctors and housekeeper.

The petition, filed in Los Angeles on Wednesday, proposes two conservators: Jean Sievers, Wilson’s “longtime publicist and manager,” and LeeAnn Hard, his “longtime business manager.” The family said it asked the court to appoint Sievers and Hard because they “have had a close relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Wilson for many years, and Mr. Wilson trusts them.”

Wilson was first placed in a conservatorship in the 1990s after years of personal turmoil caused by mental illness, substance abuse and life under the yoke of the controversial celebrity psychologist Dr. Eugene Landy, who attempted to control nearly every aspect of the singer’s life. (Landy was eventually barred from any contact with Wilson and died in 2006.)

Wilson’s entanglement with Landy and romantic relationship with Ledbetter were dramatized in the film “Love & Mercy.”

The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys with Brian Wilson.Bettmann Archive / Getty Images file

The singer’s family said on Instagram that the new conservatorship arrangement would allow him to remain at home and live as freely as possible: “Brian will be able to enjoy all of his family and friends and continue to work on current projects as well as participate in any activities he chooses.”

The legal filings are clear about Wilson’s limitations. In one of the documents included in the filing, a psychiatrist and UCLA professor wrote that the artist is “easily distracted, often even when aware of surroundings, and its purpose,” adding that he “often makes spontaneous irrelevant or incoherent utterances” and “has very short attention span.”

The psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen S. Marmer, wrote that Wilson is currently taking the prescription medication Aricept, which is used to treat dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

The court will have a hearing on the conservatorship matter in April.

Wilson is widely considered one of the most gifted singers, songwriters and producers in the history of American pop music. The Beach Boys conquered the recording industry with hits like “I Get Around” and “Good Vibrations,” helping to power the sunshine optimism of early-1960s youth culture.

In the middle of that decade, inspired by the ambition of the Beatles and guided by his own psychedelic visions, Wilson produced the landmark concept album “Pet Sounds,” a fusion of pop, jazz and avant-garde sounds that helped cement his towering artistic stature.

Wilson and Ledbetter married in 1995 and adopted five children. He also has two daughters from a previous marriage to the singer Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford.

“Melinda was more than my wife. She was my savior,” Wilson wrote in an Instagram post on Jan. 30. “She gave me the emotional security I needed to have a career. She encouraged me to make the music that was closest to my heart. She was my anchor. She was everything for us.”